Chinese Herb Whitens Skin

(Ivanhoe Newswire) — Scientists have discovered a more effective alternative to skin whitening creams, and it comes from an ancient Chinese herb.

Skin whitening is popular in countries like China, Japan, Korea and India, where many women view whiter skin as a symbol of beauty, good health and high social status. According to one study, about half the women in Asian countries use lightening creams. This adds up to billions of dollars a year.

Many whitening creams and lotions contain substances like toxic mercury, hydroquinone and other potentially harmful chemicals. Some whitening creams are even thought to increase the risk of skin cancer.

Researchers isolated two chemicals from the evergreen bush known as Cinnamomum subavenium. These two chemicals have the ability to block tyrosinase, which is an enzyme that controls the synthesis of melanin — a dark pigment responsible for coloring skin, hair and eyes.

They tested the “melanogenesis inhibitors” on embryos of zebrafish that had a highly visible band of black pigment. Exposure to low levels of the two chemicals reduced melanin production in the fish embryos by almost 50 percent within four days, turning the embryos white.

“When we saw the results, we were amazed,” Hui-Min Wang, who is with Kaohsiung Medical University in Taiwan, was quoted as saying. “My first thought was, ‘Well, if these herbal whiteners can transform zebrafish embryos from black to white, maybe they can also lighten women’s skin.'”

Wang estimated that the chemicals are 100-times more effective in reducing melanin pigmentation than common skin-whitening agents. The substances did not appear to be toxic when tested in low doses on both human skin cells and zebrafish embryos.

SOURCE: 241st National Meeting and Exposition of the American Chemical Society in Anaheim, March 29, 2011

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